Mid Island Air Service, a full-service Long Island FBO, has been a family-owned and operated business since 1946. Started by Louis Mancuso, Sr., the family tradition continues through his children, Louis Jr.serving as president, Gail M. Mancuso as vice president, as well as grandson, Michael Mancuso, and partner, Vincent Basile overseeing the business.
LOUIS MANCUSO, SR. Founder
MICHAEL MANCUSO President
GAIL M. MANCUSO VP, General Manager
LOUIS MANCUSO, JR. Partner
VINCENT BASILE Director of Sales
JOHN COLUCCIO Director of Maintenance
Louis Mancuso, Sr.
Surely, folks might be forgiven if they think of Louis Mancuso, Sr. as deux ex machina (literally “god from a machine” -in the early 20th century, pilots were often thought of as “sky gods”).
In 1933, less than a decade after Charles Lindbergh took off from muddy Roosevelt Field, Lou followed suit taking his first airplane ride from that now famous Nassau County pasture. While Lindbergh flew on to Le Bourget changing the dimensions of the globe along the way, Lou soared towards Farmingdale, Deer Park, Islip and Brookhaven, forever changing our relationship to the Long Island landscape. Lou, like the modest Swede from Minnesota, was a pioneer – a young man with courage and a sure sense of adventure. His image is writ large on the soil of our island and, in this 60th anniversary issue of MID ISLAND NEWS, we celebrate his achievements.
Lou took his first flying lessons in 1934, earning money to fund his passion while working as a caddy and farmhand. Initially he was discouraged with his progress and told his instructor, Jack Looney, “I’ll never be able to land that plane.” Thanks to a pep talk from Looney, Lou hopped back in the seat. In 1937 he made his first solo from Grumman’s grass strip airfield. Long Island aviation would never be the same again.
While working at Republic Aviation, Lou earned his CFI, bought a Piper J-3 and instructed on weekends. His routine however – as with most of America — was interrupted in 1941 by Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. The government ordered all civilian aircraft away from the coast and Lou left Republic to join the Navy. Slight of stature, Lou was unable to enlist and instead journeyed to Clewiston, Florida where he instructed in a program training Scottish and English cadets to fly PT-17’s and AT-6’s. Although a civilian, Lou wore an RAF uniform and was extremely proud of his association with the Brits. He observed that “the British really had their training down to a science” and was quite impressed by their patriotism and sense of mission. By 1942, Lou’s flying talents were recognized by the US Army and he was sworn into the Army Air Corps Enlisted Reserve — then immediately put on inactive status so he could continue training airmen for the RAF.
When the war ended, Lou toyed with the idea of opening an FBO in Florida. However most of his family was still in the Northeast. So along with his new bride, Connie Savino, they returned to their Long Island roots.
Lou was able to purchase another J-3 and for a time gave flight lessons at Zahn’s in Amityville as he waited for town approval to build Deer Park Airport. Once permission came, Lou again showed his pioneer ethos, clearing enough brush from the oak and pine lands of central Suffolk to make a useable runway. The maiden flight into Deer Park was on January 27, 1946. With two J-3’s and a surplus Army Fairchild, the Mid Island Flying School – and soon to be charter service — became a reality.
In the early 1950’s Lou met – and flew — horse/driver trainer Billy Haughton on frequent charters. A friendship developed and Lou purchased his first race horse at auction in 1954. While aviation still held first claim on Lou’s vocational affections, the equine paddock began to attract him.
In the following years Lou expanded operations at Deer Park and by 1964 signed a lease agreeing to open a branch at Brookhaven Airport. By the 1960’s hundreds of veterans, under the GI bill, had earned their wings at Mid Island. Lou gave most of the flight tests and the school grew to over 20 aircraft. By 1967 he had logged over 20,000 flight hours.
The worlds of aviation and horse racing continued to intersect for Lou. In the mid-60’s he traded a Cessna 337, twin engine Sky Master for a half interest in Rum Customer, a 2 year old standard bred pacer. It was a propitious move.
In 1968 Rum Customer won the Triple Crown. Lou took some of the earnings from Rum Customer’s success and invested in registered Black Angus cattle. It was a good move. In 1969 Lou purchased a 700 acre farm in Carysbrook, Virginia where he continued to raise Black Angus and added a training track to exercise race horses. Still, aviation was never far from Lou’s thoughts. The long end of the track was extended to a 2,000’ plus runway. Horses and cattle were still going to have to share Lou’s heart with an airplane.
Due to rising taxes at Deer Park, in 1974 Lou signed a lease with the town of Islip to relocate and establish an FBO at Long Island Macarthur Airport. ISP was almost exclusively a general aviation field back then and Mid Island’s operations expanded rapidly.
In 1993, Lou sold the Virginia farm and divided his time between New York and Florida. In recognition of how much aviation contributed to his wonderful life and family, Lou and Connie used the proceeds from the sale of the farm to establish a trust for Dowling College. The trust will generate scholarships for many years to come, so that future students will be able to advance their aviation careers.
In November 1997, surrounded by his wife Connie, their four children; Juanita, Louis, Jr., Gloria and Gail, three of their five grandchildren; Michael, Kari Anne and Susan, a host of good friends and family, Lou was honored by his peers; The Long Island Aviation Recognition Council. In saluting Lou, the Council made it clear, that few had influenced the tone and scope of Long Island aviation as much as he had. Beyond a doubt here was a giant, who forever changed the way people would understand their relationship between the dimensions of land and sky.
Lou Mancuso’s life is emblematic of all those virtues that we so cherish as Americans; hard work, love of family, generosity towards others. Mid Island Air Service’s commitment to customer service and desire to hold the leading edge in technological innovation, is a reflection of the man who built it. Aviation has always been the realm of those who can imagine, what most believe to be impossible. Flight gave Lou his dream. In what is obviously the measure of the man, he leaves a legacy that allows future generations of dreamers to look at the sky and say, “why not.” Trust me. I’m one.
Louis M. Mancuso, Sr: Soar with the Angels.
August 25, 1919 – July 12, 2008
Michael is a graduate of The Ohio State University with an aviation management degree. After winning many awards for aerobatic competition, Michael was selected to fly the Extra 300 with the prestigious Northern Lights Aerobatic Team. Over his 10 years as a full time professional air show pilot, Michael flew in over 200 air shows and nearly 1000 performances including precision formation team and solo aerobatics. Michael is a member of the Screen Actors Guild, flying or acting as aerial coordinator in several major motion pictures. Michael is now a corporate jet and Helicopter Captain and is licensed to fly many popular corporate jet aircraft such as the King Air 200, King Air 350, Embraer Legacy 600, Challenger 601, Hawker 800XP, Cessna C680 Soveriegn, Gulfstream 200 and Airbus Astar 350B.
Gail M. Mancuso
Gail began working during the summers for the family business after graduation from high school. She experienced the thrill of her first solo flight in a Cessna 150 at Deer Park Airport in the summer of 1972.
Each summer, while attending Kutztown State College in Pennsylvania, she continued to work for Mid Island. In 1976, she graduated with a B.S. in Art Education, certified to teach K-12. In 1978 she had the opportunity to fill in for an art teacher on leave at Hauppauge High School and taught courses as diverse as fashion illustration and jewelry making.
After graduation, she began to work full time at Mid Island’s Brookhaven Airport location as the flight school dispatcher. She earned her Private Pilot’s Certificate in February 1980 and in the Fall of that year, she attended a 200 hour, FAA Aircraft Dispatcher, training course and successfully completed this certificate. From 1981 until 1987 she worked at LaGuardia Airport for New York Air, a regional airline, which operated DC9-30’s, MD-80’s and Boeing 737’s. She began as a dispatcher and not long after, was promoted to Flight Control Manager, responsible for overseeing the operation of 35 aircraft and a staff of ten dispatchers. When Continental and NY Air merged, the dispatch office was relocated to Houston and Gail came back to the family business.
(But not before spending a month in the South Pacific).
Acting as General Manager of the Islip branch and VP of the company, Gail is grateful that Lou, has generously made her a quarter partner in the business, founded by their father. Gail is the Director of the Louis Mancuso, Sr. Scholarship Fund, founded to honor her father, the founder, of Mid Island Air. Since 2009, the fund has presented two, $1000 scholarships annually to Long Island high school seniors pursuing a career in aviation. Gail has participated in the Long Island 2 Day Breast Cancer, 35 mile walk since 2005; personally raising over $40,000 to benefit Long Islanders affected by this disease. In 2006 she had the opportunity to challenge herself by spending five days camping and hiking across the Grand Canyon, Rim to Rim. In the Fall of 2007, she spent a week in Taos, NM volunteering in the construction of two, Habitat for Humanity, adobe homes. She is an avid reader and loves to travel, both domestically and internationally. In January 2008, she reached her goal of visiting all seven continents when she walked with the penguins on Antarctica.
Louis Mancuso, Jr.
Louis Jr. received a BS in Business Education from the University of Dayton in 1969. He taught “Introduction to Business” to Long Island ninth graders for two years while teaching flying at Mid Island on weekends. The call of the skies and the family business quickly took hold and Louis joined MIAS full time in 1971. Over the next few years he logged over 2000 hours as an FAA Certified Flight Instructor. His concentration turned towards aircraft sales and in 1973 & 1974, Mid Island was the number one Piper dealer in the United States, selling over twenty new Pipers per year.
Lou has the philosophy that one must continually learn to grow and in 1992 earned his Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Dowling College. It was at that time that Lou formulated the MIAS mission statement… “We are steadily improving our processes and procedures in order to make our customers ecstatically happy while maintaining the dignity of our entire family of employees”.
In the early 90’s, the face of general aviation was becoming easier, however, it seemed that on occasion, pilots were still making poor decisions and getting in trouble. Lou wished he could help with their decision making to make them safer pilots. Following these thoughts and concerns, Lou authored the “Personal Limitations Checklist…Think like a Pro” booklet and questionnaire. It is one of his proudest accomplishments to see his customers flying safely by adhering to their PLC.
Lou has grown the FBO by reinvesting in the business and increasing hangar capacity to over 140,000 sq ft. The FBO’s hangars can accommodate aircraft up to the Gulfstream.
Lou has been guiding the FBO for over 45 years and is still enthusiastic as he promotes the new Sport Flying aspect of Mid Island Flying School. The only thing that excites him more than the new Sport Aircraft are his Piper Turbo Twin Seneca and his three grandchildren…but not in that order!
Director of Sales
Vince joined Mid Island back in the 70’s while we still operated at Deer Park Airport. He is a CFI with a BS from Dowling College. His passion is aircraft sales and his expertise speaks for itself in the hundreds of aircraft, everything from singles to jet aircraft and helicopters, which he has sold. If you are looking to lease or purchase a plane, Vince will find the right plane for your needs and pilot experience.
Vinnie has been a Mid Island partner since 1993.
Director of Maintenance
Our Director of Maintenance graduated at the top of his class from L.A. Wilson Tech School. John Coluccio is a Certified A & P mechanic with an Inspector Authorization. In his twenty plus years in aviation maintenance,, he has received factory training from Cessna Aircraft on their Single Engine and Multi-Engine Piston aircraft as well as the Conquest and Caravan turboprop aircraft. He has also received factory training from Piper Aircraft on the Malibu, and from Gulfstream on the GII series. He has also received training from US Air on their 737 series, DHC-8, Beech 1900 and Jetstream Aircraft. American Airlines has trained him on their MD-80 and F-100’s. John also has experience working on Mooney, Grumman, Beechcraft singles, multis and King Airs.
The FAA has given John numerous award certificates and letters of appreciation for the many times that he has helped in accident recoveries and investigations.
John lives in Sayville with his wife, Deborah and sons, Dario and Jayson. John and Deborah are certified foster parents for Suffolk County.
For those aircraft owners and aviation enthusiasts whom have met and had dealings with John, know he puts 110% into giving his customers the best service possible and will always go out of his way to meet their needs.
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